Members Approve Two Contracts at Evonik Kentucky Plant

This article originally appeared in Issue 11 of Chemical Solutions.

Local 8-727 members from two different bargaining units at the Evonik facility in Calvert City, Ky., ratified agreements that contained wage increases and other provisions favorable toward workers. These included union-developed health and safety language and protective contract language regarding the company’s Total Productive Maintenance (TPM) business strategy.

Unit 727-00 bargainers met with Evonik for five days over two weeks. The three-year agreement reached on Feb. 20, 2018 contained a $2,000 ratification bonus and an immediate wage increase of 2.5%. Wages increase 2.75 percent in each of the second and third years. The contract expires Feb. 14, 2021.

The new agreement enables newly-hired bargaining unit employees to qualify for vacation time sooner, shortens the time a worker is in a job progression and provides extra pay for workers in case they are laid off or the plant closes. Also, lead operators will be added to the existing weekend duty rotation with nonunion staff on a six-month trial basis.

This unit was the Air Products plant that Evonik purchased in 2016. Evonik acquired the specialty and coating additives business for Air Products. It is also called the Performance Materials Division.

Former Degussa Unit

Unit 727-01 was a spin-off from a joint venture between Air Products and Degussa AG in 1987. In 2007, Degussa AG became Evonik.

Bargaining started Feb. 22, 2018 and ended March 1, 2018 when members in unit 727-01 ratified a three-year agreement that included wage increases of 2.5 percent the first year and 2.75 percent the second and third years.

Evonik agreed to pay overtime outside a person’s regular shift without that person having to work at least 40 hours in a week. The company also agreed to create a role for one worker to address safety and operational issues through January 2019 for operators and maintenance employees.

The agreement removes forced overtime from the attendance policy, and gives employees the right to return to their department in 12 months if they are moved to another department and a new job or the person’s old job becomes open.

Safety at Evonik

Both units have strong contract language on the Safety at Evonik program and the company’s Total Productive Maintenance (TPM) business strategy.

In a Letter of Understanding (LOU) on Safety at Evonik, the company acknowledged that it was not a “blame the worker” type program and that there would be no formal observation of workers. Safety would take precedence over production, and employee participation would not be restricted in health and safety activities.

TPM is about employee involvement in maintaining and improving the integrity of a company’s production (machines, equipment and processes) and quality systems. It involves union participation on a steering committee and non-traditional roles for operators and maintenance. The first TPM coordinator will be from the bargaining unit and help management implement it. Training in the program begins in 2018 for all employees.

The LOU on TPM said that the program will improve the workplace by giving workers a greater say, making their job more rewarding, enhancing their knowledge and capabilities, and creating a collaborative partnership between workers and management. It also said that Evonik does not intend to lay off bargaining unit workers as a result of TPM or discipline them for using their “best judgment.”

Evonik’s USW-represented Deer Park, Texas, plant already operates under the TPM program.

The next Evonik contract expires October 15, 2018 for a six-person laboratory technician unit in Connecticut, Local Union 134L-34.

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